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Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK

World: Europe

KLA deal a 'milestone' for peace

Deal done: Gen Clark (right), Gen Ceku (second right) and Mr Thaci (left)

Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana has hailed an agreement on the disarming and demilitarisation of the Kosovo Liberation Army as a "milestone for the ongoing peace implementation efforts" by the international community in Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
The deal, signed by the Nato-led peacekeeping force and the KLA on Monday, ended several days of deadlock over the KLA's future role in Kosovo.

The pact provides for the transformation of the KLA into a 5,000-member Kosovo Protection Corps, under the command of the former rebel army's leader, General Agim Ceku.

The corps will be restricted to no more than 200 weapons for guard duties.

Speaking at Nato headquarters in Brussels, Mr Solana said all the weapons the KLA was required to hand over were now in storage sites under the control of the K-For peacekeepers.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Pristina:" Nato is glad to have avoided a potentially disastrous breakdown in relations with the KLA."
He warned that anyone violating weapons bans in the province would be "dealt with severely".

The KLA was to have been disbanded at midnight on Sunday, but discussions became deadlocked over the structure and role of the new civilian body.

[ image: More than 10,000 weapons have been handed in to Nato]
More than 10,000 weapons have been handed in to Nato
KLA leaders wanted the force to be the nucleus for a new national army of an independent Kosovo and were demanding the right for more members to be allowed to bear arms.

But Nato insisted the corps should be a lightly-armed civil defence body restricted to humanitarian work and disaster relief.

There were also differences over the leadership, name and insignia of the corps.

Limited weapons

The signing followed a day of intensive negotiations led by Nato Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark, who flew in after the talks became deadlocked.

[ image: KLA leader Hashim Thaci signed the deal]
KLA leader Hashim Thaci signed the deal
The Kosovo Protection Corps will operate under the supervision of the commander of K-For.

"KLA personnel will cease wearing uniforms and KLA insignia from midnight on 21 September," a K-For statement said.

"A limited number of weapons will be available for personal protection and the number of weapons available to KPC personnel responsible for guarding and protection duties has been agreed at 200.''

The pact was signed by the KLA's political leader Hashim Thaci, Gen Ceku, UN special representative Bernard Kouchner and K-For leader General Michael Jackson.

During the deadlock, Gen Jackson had warned that the KLA's refusal to accept the civilian corps plan could threaten Kosovo's future.

'Virtual antiques'

Under a phased 90-day disarmament process signed in June, it was agreed that the majority of KLA troops would return to civilian life, that uniforms would be removed and weapons handed in.

Gen Jackson said the disarmament of the KLA was complete, with more than 10,000 weapons turned in to peacekeepers.

However, it is unclear whether this constitutes the total number held by the rebels. Many of the weapons which reporters have seen at collection centres are in poor condition or virtual antiques.

A BBC correspondent in Kosovo says what remains to be seen is how well the deal will be received by Serbia and Russia.

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